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The Way to the Stars
Directed by Anthony Asquith
Produced by Anatole de Grunwald
Written by Terence Rattigan
Anatole de Grunwald
Richard Sherman
John Pudney (poems)
Starring Michael Redgrave
John Mills
Rosamund John
Music by Nicholas Brodszky
Charles Williams
Cinematography Derrick Williams
Editing by Fergus McDonell
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 16 June 1945 (UK)
15 November 1945 (US)
Running time 109 minutes (UK)
87 minutes (US)
Country  United Kingdom
Language English

The Way to the Stars, also known as Johnny in the Clouds, is a 1945 war drama film made by Two Cities Films and released by United Artists. It was produced by Anatole de Grunwald and directed by Anthony Asquith. The screenplay was written by Terence Rattigan, based on his play Flare Path, which incorporated his Royal Air Force (RAF) experiences as a flight lieutenant. The film stars Michael Redgrave, John Mills, and Rosamund John.

The title, The Way to the Stars, is taken from the Latin motto of the RAF, Per ardua ad astra. The alternative title, Johnny in the Clouds, is derived from the poem recited in the film as tribute to the dead British airman.

Contents

Plot

The setting of the film is a new RAF station called Halfpenny Field (pronounced ha'penny). The action takes place between 1940 and 1944.

Pilot Officer Peter Penrose (John Mills) arrives in the summer of 1940 as a newly posted and very green "fifteen hour sprog" Bristol Blenheim pilot, and is assigned to the command of Flight Lieutenant David Archdale (Michael Redgrave). When the Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Carter (Trevor Howard, in his second but first credited film role) is shot down, Archdale takes over. Whilst Penrose develops into a first-class pilot, he meets Iris Winterton (Renee Asherson), a young woman staying with her domineering aunt at the Golden Lion pub in the nearby village.

Archdale marries Miss Todd (known to all as Toddy, played by Rosamund John) the popular manageress of the hotel, and they have a son, Peter. A year later, Archdale is shot down and killed over France. Penrose had been courting Iris, despite her aunt's disapproval, but Archdale's fate weighs heavily on his mind. Not wanting Iris to suffer if the same happened to him, he stops seeing her.

The squadron is posted overseas, but Penrose stays on as a Controller. A USAAF bomber group of B-17's arrive in late 1942, including Captain Johnny Hollis (Douglass Montgomery) and Lieutenant Joe Friselli (Bonar Colleano).

Penrose is eventually posted away to fly Avro Lancaster bombers. When he later makes an emergency landing at the base, he meets Iris again. Toddy persuades a very reluctant Penrose to propose to Iris, saying that she did not regret her own marriage in spite of her husband's death. Hollis, who has formed a close but platonic friendship with Toddy, is killed whilst crash-landing a damaged returning bomber, rather than bail out and risk it crashing in the village.

Cast

Poem

The following poetry, supposedly written by Archdale, was penned by John Pudney. It is found on a piece of paper and given by Penrose to Toddy after her husband's death. Later, she gives it to Hollis's friend to read after he is killed.

FOR JOHNNY

Do not despair.........For Johnny-head-in-air;

He sleeps as sound.....As Johnny underground.

Fetch out no shroud....For Johnny-in-the-cloud;

And keep your tears....For him in after years.

Better by far..........For Johnny-the-bright-star,

To keep your head......And see his children fed.

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